On Their Own Terms: Supporting Kinship Care Outside of TANF and Foster Care. Target Population

09/01/2001

Designers of alternative kinship care programs struggle to decide what segments of the kinship care population they should serve, and how.

By definition, the alternative programs studied focus on meeting the needs of kinship care families. However, the populations the programs target vary considerably. Designers of alternative kinship care programs struggle with a key question: what segments of the kinship care population should the program serve, and how?

  • The Kinship Support Network in San Francisco offers the same services to both those that are involved with the child welfare system (public kin) and those that are not (private kin).
  • Denver's program provides the same level of payment to both public and private kin (all relatives receiving TANF child-only payments to care for their kin) but private kin may receive case management and other supports from the alternative program. Public kin receive case management and other services through the child welfare agency.
  • Kentucky's child welfare alternative program and Florida's program both exclude all private kin, making child welfare involvement an eligibility criterion for program services.
  • Kentucky's and Oklahoma's support group programs were established to serve private kin, but neither exclude public kinship care families.
The programs serving public kinship care families provide roughly the same amount of attention to the child and the caregiver, while the programs serving private kin appear to be more focused on the caregivers.

In addition, programs vary as to whom they viewed as their primary client. The programs serving public kinship care families provide roughly the same amount of attention to the child and the caregiver, while the programs serving private kin appear to be more focused on the caregivers. With the exception of A Second Chance in Pittsburgh, none of the alternative kinship care programs target extensive services to birth parents and/or extended families. However, a few administrators noted that the lack of attention to birth parents is a program weakness they hope to address in the future.

In several of the programs visited, there have been efforts to expand the target population. For example, A Second Chance in Pittsburgh focuses on kinship foster care, but has recently expanded to provide some services to private kin. And in Florida, where the alternative kinship program serves only public kin, there have been repeated, yet unsuccessful, legislative attempts to expand the program to include private kin.

Program administrators of several of the programs we visited noted that when the programs were being designed, local officials expressed concern that providing additional resources or services to kin may provide an incentive for parents to hand off their children to kin. However, none of the programs reported such problems following implementation. (14)